Cobain: Montage of Heck, 2015.
Directed by Brett Morgen.
An authorized documentary on the late musician Kurt Cobain, from his early days in Aberdeen, Washington to his success and downfall with the grunge band Nirvana.
Upon leaving the screening for Brett Morgen’s latest documentary about legendary Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, it only took a mere few minutes for an incredible feeling of melancholy to wash over myself. I was surprised by my strong reaction to the film, especially since I would describe myself as a very casual listener of the ‘Grunge’ era. (I own two Nirvana albums, ‘Nevermind’ and a ‘Greatest Hits’) It was a few days later when the song ‘Come As You Are’ creeped on to the playlist one evening, I turned very solemn almost immediately. This is the incredible affect that this story still has, twenty-one years later.
‘Montage Of Heck‘ is the name of a collage that Kurt Cobain assembled back in 1988. Now this film is intimate. It’s probably the closest that any of us will ever get to knowing the real Kurt Cobain. That reason is because ‘Cobain‘ is the first Documentary to have co-operation from Kurt Cobain’s family, as well as his Daughter ‘Frances Bean Cobain’ serving as co-executive producer. The film is over-flowing with his artwork, journal entries, song lyrics even shopping lists. As well as a heavy amount of un-released footage both personal and of the bands inevitable rise to fame.
This film left me in no doubt about what kind of a man Kurt Cobain was, he was all about the music. Even in early interviews with journalists/magazines you can sense his uneasiness with the press and his desire for everybody to interpret his bands music in their own way. He was uncomfortable with the role that the music industry wanted him to occupy, he saw his level of fame as a brick wall he would eventually have to climb back down. The film has themes of humiliation and ridicule at it’s core, this was something that Kurt feared more than anything. He is at one point described as ‘Incredibly over-sensitive’ as many a true artist tend to be.
A lot of his artwork has been animated and brought to life in an almost terrifying way, looking at some of these early drawings definitely give you an indicator that he was destined for a complicated life. There are a lot of cartoonish drawings that seem to be him commenting on Americas warped perception of Men and Women’s roles in society, Kurt seemed to rebel against the idea that people should be labelled according to their gender and orientation.
There are a few animated sequences in this film which run alongside interview tapes with Kurt himself, here he discusses some stories from his childhood that are in equal parts embarrassing and deeply sad. Some crucial scenes are scored to an orchestral version of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ which is very effective. These animated tales delve more into the state of mind of Kurt as a teenager, again highlighting his feelings of being ridiculed for being sensitive.
The 132 minute film does tend to sag in the middle, some of the home video footage of Kurt & Courtney had a very been there done that kinda feel to it. While it was an important and very crucial part of his story. You could feel the audience squirming uncomfortably while she lingered on screen. There was a moment that I had to watch through my hands as Ms Love treated us to her rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’. It was horrible. While I don’t think that she is to blame for this, I do wonder if her involvement in the film should have been kept to a minimum.
That being said, the editing of this film is amazing. It shows you exactly what you want to see and doesn’t jump back and forth in time as some documentaries seem to relish in. It’s just a really clean timeline from start to finish, where you can see clear correlations between events surrounding the star and subsequent album releases. The interviews with family and friends are nicely spaced out as well, focusing on one person at a time rather then opinions on events from many different angles.
While I did enjoy the film, I thought about whether I would watch it again. I probably wouldn’t, not because this isn’t a great Documentary by any means. I just don’t think that there’s much new here, I mean we all knew that Kurt Cobain had a drug problem right? I would’ve liked to have seen some more interviews with his family and friends discussing life after Nirvana, but sadly the documentary ended with a simple disclaimer explaining that Kurt Cobain died after his original suicide attempt in Rome 1994. This did make the film quite bleak and depressing.
One of the final scenes from the film really stuck with me, the footage of the now infamous MTV Unplugged in New York. This took place just 6 Months before Kurt Cobain’s eventual death in April 1994, his performance of “Where did you sleep last night?” really resonated with me and it’s here where you can see the real Kurt Cobain. There is a chance that he was aware that this might be one of his last performances and so he decided to leave us a very different type of suicide note.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Martin Burgoyne – Follow me on Twitter
Entertainment value ***